Reversing the Learning Curve
At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth [I openly and joyfully acknowledge Your great wisdom], that You have hidden these things [these spiritual truths] from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants [to new believers, to those seeking God’s will and purpose].
In God’s kingdom, many things are the opposite of what you’d expect. To be great, be a humble servant. To be strong, recognize your weakness. To be close to God, admit the darkness and depravity in your heart. In this passage, Jesus gives another startling fact of the Kingdom: God reveals Himself and truth to “babes” and hides it from those who think they know it all. To learn spiritual truth, He explains, you need to go back to the basics.
As we look at how Jesus related to people in the Gospels, we see this reversed learning curve again and again. The highly educated religious leaders argued with Jesus, hardened their hearts, and eventually plotted to have Him executed. Only a couple of them opened their hearts to Him. But the unlearned, the outcasts, and the simple flocked to Him. Virtually all His miracles were reserved for these people.
In our world, people pride themselves on what they know because “knowledge is power.” But in the spiritual world, degrees and vast learning don’t matter. They don’t necessarily prevent insight, but they can easily get in the way. God values a humble heart, and He delights to teach those who will say to Him, “Lord, I don’t get it. Will You help me?
When you know the author of the Book, the Book will have meaning to you.
There were two things that made the Acts church successful: the apostle’s doctrine and prayer.
“They were continually and faithfully devoting themselves to the instruction of the apostles, and to fellowship, to eating meals together and to prayers. A sense of awe was felt by everyone, and many wonders and signs (attesting miracles) were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed [in Jesus as Savior] were together and had all things in common [considering their possessions to belong to the group as a whole]. And they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing the proceeds with all [the other believers], as anyone had need. Day after day they met in the temple [area] continuing with one mind, and breaking bread in various private homes. They were eating their meals together with joy and generous hearts, praising God continually, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord kept adding to their number daily those who were being saved.”
This new relationship with God was vastly different from anything they knew. Those who became followers of Christ realized that their old ways and practices would not work in the kingdom of God. Those who believed that they knew it all about God stayed in the temple and the synagogues and continued debating and trying to arrive at the “truth.” But those who had experienced the transforming power of Christ realized that their knowledge wasn’t sufficient. This new church faced situations that their collective knowledge and wisdom were not able to manage, so they humbly sought God’s counsel. Even the disciples, who had been with Jesus, dared not trust their own wisdom. I’m sure that Peter painfully remembered those times when he had relied on his wisdom and knowledge only to discover that it was not the wisdom of the kingdom of God.
I’m sure we remember when Peter received the revelation that Jesus was the Messiah.
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), the Son of the living God.” Then Jesus answered him, “Blessed [happy, spiritually secure, favored by God] are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood (mortal man) did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
Jesus was plain with the fact that Peter did not arrive at this conclusion because of human wisdom and knowledge. As a matter of fact as the conversation continued and Jesus was telling the disciples that He would be crucified, Peter’s rejection of the truth got him a stern rebuke from Jesus.
From that time on Jesus began to show His disciples [clearly] that He must go to Jerusalem, and endure many things at the hands of the elders and the chief priests and scribes (Sanhedrin, Jewish High Court), and be killed, and be raised [from death to life] on the third day. Peter took Him aside [to speak to Him privately] and began to reprimand Him, saying, “May God forbid it! This will never happen to You.” But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on things of God, but on things of man.”
Let’s read that last sentence again: “You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Every time Peter relied on his knowledge, he seemed to get into trouble. On the Mount of Transfiguration, he wanted to build three tabernacles, one for Moses, one for Elijah and one for Jesus. And again he was scolded for relying on his natural wisdom. I’m sure he thought that elevating Jesus to the status of Moses and Elijah was a great thing, but it was far beneath who He really was so God spoke from heaven with spiritual knowledge:
Then Peter began to speak and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good and delightful and auspicious that we are here; if You wish, I will put up three [sacred] tents here—one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “ This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased and delighted! Listen to Him!”
So Peter and the Acts church learned that they couldn’t depend on human wisdom and knowledge. Later Paul would say that his preaching was not in the wisdom of the world but in the power and demonstration of God.
And when I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming to you the testimony of God [concerning salvation through Christ], I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom [no lofty words of eloquence or of philosophy as a Greek orator might do]; for I made the decision to know nothing [that is, to forego philosophical or theological discussions regarding inconsequential things and opinions while] among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified [and the meaning of His redemptive, substitutionary death and His resurrection]. I came to you in [a state of] weakness and fear and great trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom [using clever rhetoric], but [they were delivered] in demonstration of the [Holy] Spirit [operating through me] and of [His] power [stirring the minds of the listeners and persuading them], so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom and rhetoric of men, but on the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Much of the conflict and confusion in the church and in our individual lives would be resolved if we just would admit that we don’t know as much as we think we know. If we were to just sit at the feet of Jesus; if we were to demand that those who teach and instruct us first sit at the feet of Jesus and receive the knowledge and wisdom and truth from Him, and if we would choose to listen and follow the truths of the Word of God, we would be amazed with the outcome.
Perhaps today, as we prepare to begin a new year, it would be good to go to God in prayer and say to Him, “Lord, I don’t know how to live life. I don’t know what the right thing to do. I need Your wisdom, Your direction and Your guidance for my life.”
Perhaps it would be good for the church to come together to pray and seek God’s direction for its future rather than spend endless hours of discussion and debate trying to discover which path to take. I think that if we choose to practice the Acts church way, we just might have the Acts church outcome!
Dr. John Thompson